Yellow Fever Vaccine & Prayer Request (Updated)

**Update at the bottom of this post**

Many folks who read this blog already know that Kassie and I are planning to visit Uganda, Africa in less than two weeks.  We have been in the hustle and bustle of emails and phone calls and planning, and things have been (mostly) moving right along without much of a hitch.

Yesterday, I finalized all of my vaccine appointments.  Kassie wanted to do the same thing, but was waiting to hear from her OB doctor about which vaccines had risks to Kassie and the baby.

As I was sitting in the clinic waiting for my Hepatitis A vaccine, Kassie sent me a text message saying the doctor “does NOT want me (Kassie) to go to Uganda.  She does NOT want me to get the yellow fever vaccine.” I shrugged it off for the moment and called Kassie when my shot was over.

Our doctor expressed concern about the effects of the yellow fever vaccine on our unborn baby.  Back in 2002, the Center for Disease Control issued a warning about a link between the vaccine and viscerotropic disease.  This is a very rare, but very serious, disease.

We have been reading everything we can find from places like the CDC and the World Health Organization.  The basic response is “Pregnant women should not travel to yellow fever-endemic countries.  If travel is unavoidable, pregnant women should discuss the vaccine with their doctor.” That’s where we are now.

Our options:

  • Kassie gets the vaccine and goes to Uganda. In this case, Kassie is (seemingly) protected from yellow fever and our baby is placed at some unknown level of risk.  Perhaps there is virtually no risk, but the fact that our doctor has warned us against this would certainly increase anxiety until the baby is born and we can check for negative affects.
  • Kassie goes not get the vaccine and goes to Uganda. There is a provision that allows people with a medical reason (pregnancy, age, suppressed immune system) to obtain a waiver from their doctor.  Kassie would be at risk for yellow fever, but we could be very careful with lots of bug spray and very covering clothing.  Yellow fever is spread through infected mosquitoes.
  • Kassie does not get the vaccine and does not go to Uganda. If the risk of yellow fever is too high and the risk of the vaccine is too high, this is a possible scenario.  I would probably still go, but the point of the trip is for us to see if we should move to Bundibugyo, which makes Kassie’s participation pretty important.

Please pray for us.  Kassie likes the medical waiver option, but we are waiting to hear from the folks in Bundibugyo about how serious the risk for yellow fever is at the present.  We know that there is no such thing as a “safe” or risk-free life, but we also know that God gave us minds with reasoning capacity for a reason.  Pray that the Holy Spirit would guide our decision making.

—UPDATE: March 20 @ 3:11 P.M.—

We’ve heard some encouraging news from Bundibugyo.  The doctors there (with 16+ years in the region) informed us that yellow fever was in Bundi 50 years ago.  It is possible that it still exists, but the belief is that yellow fever is not present.

This news certainly frees Kassie up, should she decide to pursue a medical waiver rather than be immunized.

Also, another perspective on the research front shows no proven correlation between the vaccine and miscarriage/stillbirth/birth defects.  Certain test studies have shown no relationship between the vaccine and adverse pregnancy outcomes.

This news frees Kassie up, should she decide to get the vaccine.

As for our OB doctor, we are very thankful for her concern and advice.  She even acknowledged, “I know you guys will pray about this.  I’m just saying that, if it were me, I wouldn’t go.”  She has been, and will surely continue to be, a wonderful- and cautious- physician.

As one of the leaders in Bundi said this morning, “this is just the beginning of nice, sane people telling you not to do what you’re doing.  I think we’re always wise to listen and consider, but not necessarily to always agree.”

I guess if everybody thought it was a good idea to go to the jungle, we wouldn’t need any more missionaries.

Thanks to all who prayed for us.  We’ll sleep a little easier tonight, if Cora lets us.


About Brian Phillips

Brian lives in Spain with Kassie and their kids.
This entry was posted in Family, Missions, Personal, Prayer Request. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Yellow Fever Vaccine & Prayer Request (Updated)

  1. Emily Powell says:

    What great news! Keep me posted as you discern what the next step will be!

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